Twitter.com/seansmith4, we barely knew ye.
Of all the potential stumbling blocks this season -- horrific schedule, Terrell Owens, Channing Crowder's hair -- the Dolphins have identified and eliminated the absolute worst: 140-character blasts about the heat, snacks and XBox.
Yep, there's a clampdown across the NFL on social media, especially Twitter, and Miami is leading the charge. Not only has old-school Tony Sparano outlawed players from the adorable chirping micro-blogging site, along with "old" blogging, but also reporters attending practices, and fans in the stands.
In fact, fans aren't even allowed to text-message while in the presence of the Dolphins.
So, it's okay to repeat what we've seen with our own eyes by talking, but not typing? Huh.
Though Sparano admitted to the New York Times he is "naïve to the whole thing...doesn't understand it...[and] just learned how to text a couple months ago,” it's not about understanding the technology. The franchise has its own Twitter feed and even plans to hand out an interactive, multimedia device to ticketholders this season.
No, the real issue is about control of information. And it's not surprising the Fins in the Actual Football department feel this way -- Sparano might be the most tight-lipped coach in a league of extreme secrecy, and he, like also-bans ESPN, clearly fears what he can't manage (though in ESPN's case, it's "can't monetize").
To be fair, the team's experiences with social media haven't been incident-free -- both Chad Pennington and Davone Bess have been the victims of fake Tweeters -- and the last thing the distraction-hating Sparano wants is an information leak that could give away injury information or betray a game plan.
But the hard stance is also short-sighted, because micro-blogging is a fantastic tool for buzz and outreach. What could be more engaging then Sean Smith giving a little insight into what his first year as an NFL player is like? What could possibly get a fanbase more hype -- or pliable -- for the season than "Patrick Turner just caught a 40-yard TD pass over Vontae Davis during tandem drills?" from Herald reporter (and apparent ban-flouter) Omar Kelly?
Well, maybe something like "a white dove just descended onto Chad Pennington while a voice from heaven called a Super Bowl win," but certainly not Jimmy Buffett or a three-hour bus shuttle from a Naples car dealership or any other publicity schemes the Fins have sunk a lot of money into.
Twitter is free, growing, and accesible. Sure, with loose-lipped cannons Joey Porter and Crowder around, some rules and a little training might be in order. But it's the players that fans want more of, and the Dolphins would be better served figuring out a way to utilize, rather than ignore, the fastest-growing phenomenon on the web.